Achieving the right balance is an uphill task, especially in a professional environment. With simultaneous projects, ad hoc work requests – it's no wonder that project managers and team heads are often overwhelmed.
Project managers, team managers, or other leaders – in charge of assigning the work – often lack visibility on who is working on what, the capacity of the team, and the availability and skill sets of the resources in hand. Managers most often make the mistake of assigning work randomly or dumping it all on people who get it done, no matter what.
The result – over-allocated team members get overwhelmed and stressed, while under-allocated team members feel undervalued. And, not to forget that quality and performance takes a hit, as the right job is not assigned to the right person.
If you are wondering, how to make optimal use of the resources in hand, this guide will show you how. Continue reading to find all about resource management – from the basics to expert tips.
The term "resource" is a broad and generic term. Very often, when people hear the term, they immediately think of "human resources." While human resources are a crucial component of resources, there is plenty more to the term.
Simply put, "resources" are the supplies that you need to complete your project on time and successfully. The types of resources vary from one industry to another. However, most organizations rely on these standard resources:
In a nutshell, resource management is the process of finding the answers to the question – how to use available resources efficiently, effectively and economically.
Resource management is the fulcrum that holds the entire project. It ensures that the project is completed on time and efficiently, by the right allocation of resources. It helps team members understand their roles and responsibilities while providing them with a clear timeframe for each task.
Without proper resource management techniques, your projects fail to be executed successfully. The entire project schedule is likely to be thrown off-balance when the right resources are not available at the right time.
As you can see, resource management is a key component of the project planning process.
To get a clear picture of resource management, it's essential to understand the different terms and processes, associated with it.
Just like every other step in project management, resource management starts with a well laid-out plan. The resource plan includes a detailed and comprehensive list of all the resources required for successful completion of a project. This process involves the senior team members and project managers.
The resource plan gives you a clear picture of the required resources. The next step is to create hierarchies among the resources. This is known as Resources Breakdown Structure or RBS in short. Generally, the RBS identifies and orders resources according to reporting structure, team hierarchy or by geography.
Keep in mind that RBS is different from the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). The latter defines the tasks associated with each phase of the project, while the former arranges resources in different hierarchies.
This involves assigning responsibilities to each resource in the resource plan for completion of the project. This is where you define the following:
The RAM (Responsibility Assignment Matrix) makes use of the following symbols – R: Responsible, A: Accountable, C: Consulted and I: Informed.
As the term implies, it denotes a particular resource has been allocated too much work. When resource over-allocation occurs, the person will not be able to complete the allocated tasks within the scheduled time.
Resource over-allocation can have several negative impacts like – overtime of projects, stressing out employees, over-shooting project budgets and even derail a project. To avoid all these, it's essential that your resources are balanced and allocated optimally.
This gives a visual representation of resource allocation. It helps everyone concerned – from project managers to employees – stay in the loop. It's a quick and easy way to see – who is working on what, when and reports to whom.
Some advanced resource scheduling tools do more than providing you with a graphical representation of resources. It shows your real-time allocation of resources, helping you re-schedule resource allocation. This helps you resolve conflicts and avoid under or over allocation.
This refers to the principle that an organization should guard against depending on a particular resource or team of resources for all projects. Over-reliance on a particular sub-set of resources causes workload bottlenecks and resource shortages.
You can avoid resource dependency by distribution the work across multiple resources, or by having a back-up plan. For instance, if a particular team member has been allocated several tasks simultaneously, he/she could be blocking other's work.
The Role of Resource Management in Determining Your Project Outcomes
With the right resource management tools, you can overcome the major problems associated with project planning. Resource Management helps you overcome hurdles like:
By standardizing resource management, you provide your business with significant benefits. In any organization, the talent (or human resources) represents the biggest revenue source. By ensuring optimal allocation and usage of talent, you improve the bottom line.
The Key Benefits of Efficient Resource Management include:
While it may appear simple – assigning the right person to the right task – resource management is a complicated process. There are several challenges to overcome throughout the project.
As a project manager, you would be aware that the client requirements keep on changing throughout the project timeline. You need to keep on updating and reworking on resource allocation, to keep up with changing client requests.
Very often, organizations work simultaneously on several projects. This causes resources to be allocated across different projects. Additionally, you have to consider several other factors like – sick leaves, vacation, changing time zones, varying work hours, and so on. All of this makes it difficult for the manager to allocate resources effectively.
Allocating resources doesn't happen simultaneously. For instance, in several projects, you can allocate resources for the later stages, only after the initial phases are completed. For instance, let's say you are involved in an IT project for website design. You cannot allocate front-end designers until the back-end, and content development is done.
As you can see, resource allocation is further complicated due to varying project dependencies.
Even after you have taken care of all the elements of project planning like – agreeing on the timeline, scope, and budget, there are things beyond your control. Your resource management process must be able to respond to project uncertainties in real-time. You need to shift resources from one project or re-assign them in real-time.
Very often, businesses share a limited pool of resources among multiple projects with similar timeframes. Your resource management tool must be flexible to handle conflicting priorities smoothly.
Very often, business owners assume that resource management is applicable only to certain industries like IT and software. Contrary to popular belief, resource management is critical to the success of all businesses, regardless of the industry.
Automotive, Gaming, Healthcare, FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods), Retail Chains, Hospitality, Entertainment, IT, Software, Construction and many more – Resource Management is essential for businesses across industries and verticals.
The goal of resource management is simple – allocate the right resources for the right tasks. However, it's easier said than done. For efficient resource allocation, you require:
While it may seem simple on paper, there's plenty of work to be done. This is why; regular spreadsheets don't work for efficient resource allocation and resource management.
This is where – specialized resource management tools and software come into the picture. The benefits of investing in resource management tools are many.
Ask yourself these questions,
If you answer, "Yes" to any of the above questions, then it's time to overhaul your resource management process. Start by finding the right resource management tool that works for your business. Implement it and make the best use of your resources going forward.